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Bangladesh: Floating vegetable beds throw a lifeline to Chandpur farmers

Ripening papaya, bitter gourd, and okra loom over a mass of water hyacinth. Birds fly low over the surface of the water. Alok Biswas, 35, a farmer in the low-lying Shahrasti upazila of Chandpur district, stands knee-deep in water, tending to his plants. Most of the farmland in the upazila is underwater for eight to ten months every year, making traditional farming impossible for farmers like Biswas. So, they have turned to vegetable cultivation on floating beds.

The farmers collect water hyacinth and build rectangular rafts out of it, which they then plant with vegetable seedlings. The buoyancy of the floating gardens allows them to rise with the water levels. Biswas says that it cost him Tk 20,000 to make 12 beds over 42 decimal land. He has sold vegetables worth about Tk 36,000 this season so far and anticipates that he will be able to earn about Tk 4 lakh in the coming weeks.

He sells vegetables such as leafy greens, spinach, beans, papayas, pumpkins, cucumbers, bottle gourds, brinjals, and green chilies. The eco-friendly practice is a traditional form of hydroponics that has turned some 240 hectares of marshy, low-lying lands and canals into vegetable-producing gardens in Shahrasti, Hajiganj, Faridganj, and Sadar upazila of Chandpur.

According to the Chandpur Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), marginal farmers are growing mostly early winter vegetables on the floating beds. On top of boosting food security, the practice is also helping to make farmers financially solvent. "We are using every inch of agricultural land to achieve food sufficiency," Chandpur DAE Deputy Director Shafayet Ahmad Siddiqui told The Financial Express.


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